The distinctive candy striped tower

Green Point lighthouse

Green Point lighthouse sign
Green Point lighthouse sign

Green Point lighthouse is South Africa’s first lighthouse, commissioned in 1824, and is currently the headquarters of the South African lighthouse service. The lighthouse is instantly recognisable, constructed from immensely thick masonry and painted with red and white diagonal bands. The walls at the base of the tower are almost two metres thick, because the building material is unworked stone bound by lime mortar.

The tower is 16 metres high, with its focal plane 20 metres above sea level. Currently the light is an 800,000 candela metal halide lamp. These facts mean that the light can be seen from 25 nautical miles away. The sound of its fog horn (of a variety called a nautophone) will also be familiar to local residents and boaters. We listened to it for ages while waiting for last year’s Freedom Swim to commence.

View of the lighthouse across Beach Road
View of the lighthouse across Beach Road

Green Point lighthouse works in conjunction with Milnerton lighthouse and the Robben Island light to guide vessels safely into Table Bay, past Robben island and avoiding confusion from the myriad city lights. Technically the lighthouse is situated in Mouille Point. There used to be a Mouille Point light (commissioned in 1842) close to where the wreck of RMS Athens lies. It was decommissioned in 1908 when a light was established on the breakwater nearby. The base of the decommissioned Mouille Point lighthouse still survives at Granger Bay, and when I find it and photograph it I will show it to you.

The rotating lens at Green Point lighthouse
The rotating lens at Green Point lighthouse

The lens, a thing of beauty, was supplied by Chance Brothers; their handiwork is also visible at the Slangkoppunt lighthouse.

The lighthouse is open to the public on weekdays between 10.00 am and 3.00 pm, for a cost of about R14. You can climb up the tower and also browse the fascinating historical displays inside the building. You could also fantasise about working for the lighthouse service, and crash back to earth with the realisation that in today’s age of unmanned lights, it’s a far less romantic job than you think it might be.

As usual, everything I know about this lighthouse that I didn’t learn by looking at it (i.e. most everything), is thanks to Gerald Hoberman’s wonderful Lighthouses of South Africa book.

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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